“Photography develops the art of seeing and the art of living,” says Frances Schwabenland.
Frances is an Untourist and a travel photographer whose work has been published in books and widely on the internet. She has also shared her skills with the Untours Foundation.
We recently sat down with Frances to get some pointers on travel photography that can help even the most amateur among us as we travel through Europe and shoot our experiences.
Research the area
“Pinterest provides inspiration and shows the most photographic images,” she says. Even a simple web search of cities and sights you are visiting may pull up images that inspire you and reveal angles and inspiration for the photo you might wish to shoot there.
Know exactly how your camera works
“You do not want to spend time fiddling with settings while someone is kind enough to let you take their picture,” says Frances. And moments or scenes you wish to capture can be fleeting, so speed matters.
Know a little language
“Always know how to say excuse me, please, thank you, and may I photograph you,” says Frances.
Create a checklist before you go
“Plan to shoot photographs that show the people, architecture, food, culture, nature, and famous sites of the area you are visiting,” says Frances. “That way, when you return home, you will have a varied and interesting overview.”
Always have your camera with you and easily accessible so you never miss a shot.
“Focus in on color, gesture, and emotion,” says Frances.
Capture the story
Look for a story or narrative in the scenes you capture. “Vignettes and candids can tell so much more about a place and its culture than photos of known sights would.”
Be wise about your selfies
If you are taking a selfie, be smart and safe. Always be aware of your surroundings and be respectful to the place and the people around you. Consider asking a stranger to take your photo and offer to return the favor.
Portraits and people
Think about the background
Avoid a cluttered or busy background and check to make sure nothing appears to be growing out of the person’s head. Also, be aware of other people in the background.
Focus on the light
“Pose your subject by a doorway or a window. Have a sun beam shining over their head or lighting their hair,” says Frances.
Photograph children and pets at eye level.
If you wish to photograph locals
“Vendors and people who are helping you are a good place to start: waiters, hotel staff, and others in the service industry are usually very obliging to having their photographs taken if you buy something or give them a small tip.”
“Understand and respect the people and the culture,” says Frances, who has shot many stiring portraits in her travels. “If a person does not wish their picture to be taken, honor this.”
Think in terms of storytelling, environmental portraits that show the person in their home, restaurant, or work. “Focus in on details: hands, dress, facial expression,” says Frances. “Wide angle and telephoto capture both very well.”
Share the image you take with your subject. It is a wonderful idea to show the back of the camera to the person right after the photograph is taken. It is even nicer to send them a copy if you are able.
“Most importantly,” says Frances, “be open and savor the moment!” See her travel photos at worlddocumentaryphotographer.com.
Plan your next trips for any of our photogenic Untours destinations.